Tag Archives: culture

Happi

koto experience
koto experience

Wednesday the 7th of August was the first day of the last week of our great trip around Kanto area. We had had lot of fun times in Mito and afterwards in Abiko, but now was time for the city of Tama.

The first thing in the morning, we got to try out traditional Japanese clothing – kimonos. Each member of our group was dressed up by a bunch of lovely and enthusiastic ladies, all the while we could only raise our hands and let them do their work. Personally I really like this type of clothing and found it really fun to dress up in a few different outfit combinations for the photoshoot we had afterwards.

When everyone had at least tried on the clothes and had some pictures taken, we had a small parade around the building. Some of us were a bit uncomfortable about being presented as dressed up foreigners for the entertainment of the local people, but I just took it by the stride and enjoyed my time playing a Japanese flute, shinobue, to make most out of the experience. The parade ended at a stage, where we could try our hand at traditional Japanese games, while still in our fancy clothes. Not gonna lie, juggling or playing with a kendama with big floppy sleeves was not the easiest thing to do…

After lunch, it was time to try on a different traditional Japanese costume – Happi coat. Though not as fancy as the kimonos, it was a nice experience to try those too. In our new costumes we continued onwards with activities. From here we showed the audience the dance we had prepared for the arigatou event and gave them a few short presentations of some of our home countries.
The highlight of the afternoon for me, personally, was the activity following that. We got to try our hand at playing either a Japanese harp, koto, or one of the Japanese flutes, shakuhachi. While I would’ve loved to try out their shakuhachis, time only allowed for us to try one instrument, so I had fund picking sounds out of the koto.

The last activity of the day made us feel like proper celebrities for we got to give out autographs. It would’ve been great fun, if the kids wouldn’t have wanted us to draw something along with giving the autograph. I decided to give my signing seat to another participant after a few signatures to save the rest of the kids from my… “Art”…
All in all we had great fun!

Oskari, Finland

Summer School and Zen

Exchanging Ideas at Uda City Hall
Exchanging Ideas at Uda City Hall

We have done it, we have finally arrived in Uda! The city of beautiful hills, roaring rivers and… bugs. After having survived the first night without encountering any big unwanted guests, it was time for the first day, a day packed with a variety of activities.

Early in the morning our host-mother took us out for a quick stroll to a big dam that is just a stone’s throw away. The dam looked over on a beautiful lake surrounded by the dark green forests. The morning fog that was gliding through the woods created a mystical atmosphere. With that beautiful sight engraved in our memories Paul, who stayed at the same place as I did, and I were ready for the day

After having our usual morning meeting, we took a bus to a local elementary school. The kids were very happy to see us and greeted us with some traditional songs and a flute concert. One of the kids in particular stole my heart. When the other kids were listening to the long speeches, he took his socks of and tried to play the flute using his feet only. That was only the beginning of the fun. After the official welcome we were divided into smaller groups. My group had the luck to spend the morning with the 6th graders. We played a lot of card games together in some kind of tournament format. Even though I (almost) lost every game, I still had a blast! After having some intense card matches, it was time to replenish our energy with a traditional school lunch!

After Lunch we went to city hall, where we were ironically enough greeted even more as rockstars. When the bus arrived, the crowd was standing outside, cheering us on with flags. At City Hall we enjoyed some speeches by the mayor and other administrative figures of Uda City, a short presentation about the history of Uda and we got to ask many questions.

Immediately after the visit we continued on our way through the beautiful roads of Uda. We drove all the way to a Renshoji temple, which would be the location of a very unique experience: we were going to master the art of Zazen, the art of meditation and clearing your mind of all thoughts. Sadly, but to no surprise, I wasn’t very good at it. A key component of Zazen is the form. We had to sit in an uncomfortable cross-legged position, keeping our backs straight at all times without moving an inch. I don’t have to explain why, for somebody who can’t even sit decently on a chair, this was like cleansing the Augean stables.

While we were trying to cleanse our minds, a monk was walking around, making sure everybody was doing well. Those who were losing focus, received ‘encouragements’ in the form of being beaten with a stick. I can proudly say that I was one of the lucky few who got to experience the stick. After being beaten, having a sleeping foot and not feeling my ankles anymore, I felt one step closer to inner peace. The physical pain aside, it was a very interesting experience that I will take with me for the rest of my life. Up to the day that I have written this blog, me and the boys have been strengthening ourself in the art of Zazen on the path to true enlightenment. Except for Nils, he has a long way to go.

In the evening, Paul and I gave our host-mother some local gifts from Belgium and the United states. It was a very cozy evening and we really were having a blast. Paul also insulted Poland by calling the traditional 15th century Market square of my hometown in Poland a supermarket. Thereafter it was finally time to go to bed after what had been a very interesting and eventful day.

Herbert
Poland

Spreading Our World Campus

Daniel studying an edo period book on horticulture in Keisen university
Daniel studying an edo period book on horticulture in Keisen university

I woke up at about 7:30 this morning to eat a bowl of oatmeal with yogurt and grapes with my host mother, Tomi, and brother, Hotaru (A meal pretty typical for me in America). However, it would differ when I left with my mother to the Keisen University in rainy weather due to a typhoon approaching.

We were told the day prior that this was an all-female Christian university where we would get to meet with the students, learn some history about their school, and discuss world topics. I have to admit, it was actually pretty fun! We had around six or seven students from the university who joined us during the day there and show us around.

We first went to the chapel and learn the history of the school along with a beautiful piece played by an organ player at the school (I still can’t believe she said she spends up to eight hours practicing before a performance!) Afterwards, we went to the university’s library where they had a dedicated memorial to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They kept many books and articles showcasing the first-hand experience the victims had.

Even by the time it was 11:00, the rain was still trickling outside. That didn’t stop us from being shown the herb garden the university tends to. They even made herbal water from the garden for us to drink while we discussed world affairs with the students. Even though all of us in World Campus Japan comes from different countries, us and the students all had meaningful discussions on our views of immigration, global warming, taxes, and what it means to have world peace.

I believe we ate lunch at around 12:00 in the university’s cafeteria with the other students. I just ordered a bowl of miso soup. After getting to talk to the students a bit more, we headed to the Nagayama Community Center where we would be showing Tama what it means to be a part of World Campus Japan.

For about two and a half hours, World Campus members from their respective countries made a presentation from the day before showing the great things from their countries that they wanted others to know about. Locals from Tama were invited to come to the center to view our presentations and learn more about all of our countries. With my partner, Sydney, we wanted to show how large the United States truly is and how diverse the culture is when it comes to its food, climate, and sports. We were also chosen as one of the four countries to do a dance for the locals (The others being Finland, Netherlands, and Norway). This turned out to be a cultural lesson for me too as we decided to do the chicken dance which I haven’t done in years! Thankfully, the dance is fairly simple.

Unfortunately, Sydney had become ill over the past few days and had to rest today. In other words, I and two of the Japanese students got on stage in the spotlight and taught an audience of about 100 adults and children how to shake their feathers and dance like a chicken (It looks better in person, I promise).

Although the event was long, I got to talk with so many locals and learn more about their life and their experience with America. Even better, I felt good being able to share my culture with so many locals. I can just feel that all of us today made an impact on the community with the event.

Once we wrapped up our end-of-the-day discussion at 17:00, my mother and brother came to pick me up. I got to meet some of my brother’s friends (Who all happen to be 7 years old) and we went back to our apartment. We ate a kind of curry with mushrooms and rice, beef, grapes, and corn. My brother was dying to play the Wii with me after I promised to play earlier. If there’s one thing my brother has taught me, it’s that I should really try to get better at skiing in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games. I still have no clue how he had more than double my score.

We finished the night with my dad getting home and joining in on the game. I’m going to bed earlier since tomorrow is the Arigato Event and I want to have enough energy to dance for my host family. I had never done a presentation like the one today before, but I have to say that I’m glad I did. Maybe we even encouraged people to apply for World Campus to Norway and Finland!

Daniel Busch (The United States of America)

Arigato Event 2: The Technical Guy

Today was the last organized activity day of the visit to Kumamoto city. We spent the entire day at the Prefectural University of Kumamoto, where at first we were given a presentation regarding the general demeanor of the Japanese people. I found this very interesting, as it went in depth on how the average Japanese person thinks, and how past events helped shape their current behavior.

The rest of the day was pretty much dedicated to rehearsing and doing the Arigato Event. As the staff member on tour responsible for the technical aspects, my job was at this point just to run the correct music at the correct time, and ensure that all the pieces went in order and that the volume for the different pieces was correct. However, during this particular event, I was also given the extra task of timing how long we took on each individual part of the event. This was a little bit of a challenge, just due to remembering to write down the time every time it was necessary. However, I believe that the event was held very successfully, and it seemed like the audience was entertained throughout our little show.

I was also charged with making the slideshow for this event, and although I didn’t get any feedback as of writing this, I think it went well considering I only had three days’ worth of pictures and videos to choose from. The day in general felt really good, and I’m pumped for continuing with the program!

Simen Solumn (Norway)

Today we went to a university

Charlotte with origami roses in Prefectural University of Kumamoto
Charlotte with origami roses in Prefectural University of Kumamoto

First, we tried to break the Ice by having a little chat so we lined up in two rows, World Campus members in one line and high school students in the other. After one minute of talking, we changed our partners.

Later we had lunch together. Sadly, some of the students were very shy so I didn’t have a very deep conversation, but I think everyone gave their best. After lunch, we tried to make friends with an origami master by bribing him with licorice. Unfortunately, the taste of salty sweets seems to be new for Japanese. The origami master then showed us how to fold a rose.

We probably could have folded paper for the rest of the day because that was so much fun.
Last thing at this day was a lecture about nonverbal communication and its differences in different cultures. For example, counting with fingers and gestures like “come here”. The differences between cultures and gestures was interesting.

Michael Buehlmann (Switzerland)